Recent research on development of the implantable artificial pancreas for treatment of diabetes is reviewed, based on a Medline literature search that focused on glucose sensors, insulin pumps, and pump control systems. To achieve a closed feedback loop, a clinically applicable implantable artificial pancreas requires miniaturization and coordination of three components: an insulin pump, a blood glucose monitor, and a control system. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated that implantable insulin pumps are feasible for satisfactory control of diabetes for over a year, with the major complication being obstruction of the infusion catheter. Research on continuous glucose sensors has predominantly used the glucose-oxidase reaction or near-infrared light spectroscopy. Implantable glucose oxidase sensors have been limited by local factors causing unstable signal output, whereas optical sensors must overcome interference by substances with absorption spectra similar to glucose. Investigators have developed control algorithms in an effort to stabilize operation of the integrated artificial pancreas in the face of variations in sensor output and pump function. The ultimate goals of fully automatic glucose control by an artificial pancreas include prevention or delay of chronic complications of diabetes, lowered risk of hypoglycemia, and less patient inconvenience and discomfort than with multiple daily glucose self-tests and insulin injection. The recent developments of optical glucose sensing, radiotelemetry systems to link pump and sensor, and miniaturization and refinement of insulin pumps are significant steps toward a clinically applicable artificial pancreas.

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